Books by Ruth Pennebaker

Released: Jan. 4, 2011

"Neither funny nor insightful enough to rise above the crowd of similar plots."
Pennebaker's first novel attempts to join the recession-hit chic-lit mini-boomlet with her comedy about an Austin, Texas, divorcée struggling to live under one roof with her adolescent daughter and aging mother. Read full book review >
BOTH SIDES NOW by Ruth Pennebaker
Released: June 1, 2000

In this thoughtful, affecting, and often funny story, Pennebaker (Conditions of Love, 1992, etc.) looks at life through the eyes of a naïve girl learning to balance life as her mother struggles with breast cancer. Liza is 15 and firmly believes that a positive attitude brings positive results. She resolutely ignores the stress that her mother's cancer brings to her own life, writing an advice column full of platitudes in her high school newspaper. But her "voice over" narration reflects her inner conflict, as she reports on her own changing behavior as well as that of those around her. Bringing the essence of these contradictions into a telling line or two, Liza says, "That's what high school's like. You never, ever, talk about big problems you're having. You always go around, protecting yourself, acting like everything's fine." Home is like that, too. Everyone is trying to protect the others. Occasionally, Liza's mom reflects on her side of this struggle, and the reader comes to understand that the family has trapped her into maintaining an upbeat attitude that is as hard to handle as the cancer. When her mother announces that she will refuse a debilitating stem-cell transplant in order to have a higher quality of life, knowing that the cancer will eventually kill her, Liza must abandon her rose-colored optimism. She's finally able to see her mother's strength, and through her mother's love, to gain the strength she needs to cope. This is a subtle, absorbing examination of a girl's difficult passage into maturity through the voice of one of the truest narrators in the genre. (Fiction. 12+)Read full book review >
CONDITIONS OF LOVE by Ruth Pennebaker
Released: May 1, 1999

"Although the story offers no real surprises, the author's amusing first-person account and eye for detail keep the narrative consistently engaging; setting Pennebaker's novel apart from the pack is the very specific behaviors and warty humanness of the adroitly drawn characters. (Fiction. 11-14)"
Sarah's hard-drinking, charismatic father has been dead for close to a year when this aptly titled novel from Pennebaker (Don't Think Twice, 1996, etc.) opens. Read full book review >
DON'T THINK TWICE by Ruth Pennebaker
Released: April 1, 1996

A darkly funny, intensely affecting coming-of-age novel set in a home for unwed mothers in Texas, 1967. Anne, 17, is an intelligent young woman, swept away by first love for the baby's father, a love that is not requited. In her first weeks at the home, hers is an unfocused anger: ``I read A Streetcar Named Desire last year,'' she tells readers in the first-person, present-tense narrative, ``because the school district banned it and I wanted to stick up for the Constitution.'' At the novel's end, she has matured from such childish rebellion to adulthood, and can play hardball when she must, refusing to sign adoption papers until she's allowed to hold her newborn. The ``happy'' resolution Anne wanted initially isn't possible—she can't give birth and jettison all memory of the baby—but another, more courageous, outcome is. Anne has broken through to a larger reality than her peers or family can envision; readers will know that she is a survivor who is tough yet capable of tenderness and humor, and they will love her. Pennebaker's masterful first novel depicts a time when to be pregnant and unmarried was to be ostracized, but it makes Anne's concerns no less applicable today; the strength and truthfulness of all the characterizations as well as the scope of their issues give this debut a resounding timeliness. (Fiction. 12+) Read full book review >